‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ maker settles suit linked to 1MDB
Production company founded by Najib Razak's stepson reaches a deal with US over assets allegedly bought with money stolen from Malaysian state fund
The movie company that made The Wolf of Wall Street, and was co-founded by the Malaysian prime minister’s stepson, has settled a civil lawsuit brought by the US government to seize assets allegedly bought with money stolen from a Malaysian state fund.
Red Granite Pictures announced the settlement in a filing at the Federal Court in Los Angeles on Friday, without revealing any sum.
US prosecutors, pursuing a kleptocracy asset recovery initiative, had claimed that the 2013 film, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was financed by Red Granite using funds stolen from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
“The parties are pleased to inform the court that Red Granite and the government have reached a settlement in principle,” the filing stated.
Red Granite has said previously that neither it nor its co-founder Riza Aziz had done anything wrong.
“We are glad to finally put this matter behind us and look forward to refocusing all of our attention back on our film business,” Red Granite said in a statement.
The US Justice Department has lodged dozens of lawsuits in the past two years related to the alleged misappropriation of US$4.5 billion from 1MDB.
The United States is seeking to seize some $1.7 billion in assets, making it the largest action brought by the department under its kleptocracy asset recovery initiative.
The scandal has dogged Prime Minister Najib Razak, who had chaired 1MDB’s advisory board until it was dismantled last year, but he has consistently denied any wrongdoing related to the fund.
While Najib has not been the subject of any of the lawsuits, a number of his close associates, including stepson Riza Aziz, have been named by US investigators.
Both US and Malaysian officials have confirmed, however, that Najib is the “Malaysian Official Number 1” referred to in Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports.
Red Granite Pictures provided no details of the settlement, which the filing said remained subject to final documentation and necessary approvals within the US government.
The settlement also covers claims against Red Granite’s rights and interests in two other pictures, Daddy’s Home and Dumb and Dumber To.
Potential witnesses in 1MDB cases are afraid to speak with US investigators as they fear for their safety, the FBI said this month.
The US lawsuits have also sought to seize a Picasso painting given to DiCaprio and millions of dollars’ worth of jewelry give to Australian model and actress Miranda Kerr, all allegedly from 1MDB funds.
Najib met US President Donald Trump at the White House last week, but both leaders steered clear of addressing the US investigation into the 1MDB scandal.